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Four private-sector members of the key governmental economic panel called on Japan to strive for eight more free-trade agreements with its negotiating partners in two years, and to draft a road map to that end by spring.

In Thursday’s meeting of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan Business Federation Chairman Fujio Mitarai and three others also urged the government to work out by March a schedule of agricultural reforms to eliminate tariffs on produce that would be necessary for Japan to conclude better FTAs.

At present, Japan has FTAs with Singapore, Mexico and Malaysia and has signed one with the Philippines. The four members insisted that Tokyo should triple the number of its FTA partners in two years.

The council members agreed to go ahead with the FTA road map, but Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka expressed clear opposition to an agricultural reform schedule.

Matsuoka said slashing tariffs to zero is difficult in reality and it is disadvantageous for Japan to make its farm reform plan public while the country’s FTA negotiations are under way, according to economic and fiscal policy minister Hiroko Ota.

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